DOJ’s new compliance expert brings private practice insights to the department.
The Fraud Section of the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced earlier this month that it has hired Hui Chen as its “full-time compliance expert”—the first position of its kind within the DOJ. Chen brings a wealth of compliance counseling experience to the role, having held ethics and compliance positions in the technology, banking and pharmaceutical sectors. She had most recently served as the global head for anti-bribery and corruption at Standard Chartered Bank in the U.K.
Chen’s impressive compliance background seems to speak to the DOJ’s objectives for this new position: that it wants to bring private practice insights into the department to foster more realistic expectations of what corporate ethics and compliances programs should contain.
DOJ’s Weissman: In His Own Words
Andrew Weissman, chief of the DOJ’s Fraud Section, recently spoke at an Ethics and Compliance Initiative conference, which I (Carrie) attended. Weissman spoke about the department’s new compliance expert role, underscoring the value of leveraging expertise from the private sector within the public sector.
Weissman emphasized that the DOJ will never prosecute its way out of corporate criminality. Rather, with the help of a compliance expert, it would work to embed best practices surrounding corporate compliance within companies and ensure organizations are held to tough yet realistic standards.
Finally, Weissman said, the DOJ wants compliance counsel present at every presentation a company makes to the department. This suggests the DOJ is expecting companies to begin to enhance the role of ethics and compliance leaders internally. Outside legal counsel may no longer be enough.
Your Corporate Compliance Program Under the Microscope
At a corporate compliance conference on Nov. 2, Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell laid out the metrics Chen would use to judge the compliance programs of companies under investigation. But, according to a Wall Street Journal article, those included mostly policy-specific questions, such as (among others):
- Are compliance policies clear and in writing? Are they easily understood and translated?
- Are the compliance policies effectively communicated to employees? Are they easy to find and do employees get repeated training?
- Are the corporate compliance policies updated?
With the vast majority of Caldwell’s metrics relating to policies and policy management, it’s important that companies remember that the DOJ still wants to see that companies’ corporate ethics and compliance programs are robust and effective—not just in terms of the policies themselves, but also that they’re understandable, properly communicated to employees and that the compliance function is well funded.
By bringing in an outside expert such as Chen, the DOJ is making a specific effort to be more nuanced and thoughtful as it assesses the programs of companies it is investigating. Chen’s compliance background allows the department to incorporate a more realistic understanding of the problems companies can encounter when they’re under investigation.
“Our goal is to have someone who can provide what I’ll call a ‘reality check,’” Caldwell told conference attendees. “Our hiring of a compliance counsel should be an indication to companies about just how seriously we take compliance.”
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